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WHO supports scientifically-proven traditional medicine

World Health Organization (WHO) is working with research institutions to select traditional medicine products which can be investigated for clinical efficacy and safety for Covid-19 treatment.
The Organization will continue to support countries as they explore the role of traditional health practitioners in prevention, control, and early detection of the virus as well as case referral to health facilities.
In an official press release, today, WHO says that over the past two decades, they have been working with countries to ensure safe and effective traditional medicine development in Africa by providing financial resources and technical support.
“WHO has supported clinical trials, leading 14 countries to issue marketing authorization for 89 traditional medicine products which have met international and national requirements for registration,” the statement says.
Of these, WHO notes that 43 have been included in National Essential Medicines lists and are now part of the arsenal to treat patients with a wide range of diseases including malaria, opportunistic infections related to HIV, diabetes, sickle cell disease and hypertension.
However, even as efforts are underway to find treatment for Covid-19, WHO says that caution must be taken against misinformation, especially on social media, about the effectiveness of certain remedies.
“Many plants and substances are being proposed without the minimum requirements and evidence of quality, safety and efficacy. The use of products to treat Covid-19, which have not been robustly investigated can put people in danger, giving a false sense of security and distracting them from handwashing and physical distancing which are cardinal in Covid-19 prevention,” WHO says.
WHO has welcomed innovations around the world, including repurposing drugs, traditional medicines and developing new therapies in the search for potential treatments for Covid-19.
Traditional, complementary and alternative medicine has many benefits and Africa has a long history of traditional medicine and practitioners that play an important role in providing care to populations.
Medicinal plants such as Artemisia annua (plant extract and artemisinin derivatives in laboratory cell studies are being considered as possible treatments for Covid-19 and should be tested for efficacy and adverse side effects, WHO says.
According to WHO, Africans deserve to use medicines tested to the same standards as people in the rest of the world even if therapies are derived from traditional practice and natural, establishing their efficacy and safety through rigorous clinical trials is critical.
In year 2,000, during the 50th session of the WHO Regional Committee for Africa, African governments through their Ministers of Health adopted a resolution, urging the Member States to produce evidence on the safety, efficacy and quality of traditional medicine.
Countries also agreed to undertake relevant research and require national medicines regulatory agencies to approve medicines in line with international standards, which include the product following a strict research protocol and undergoing tests and clinical trials.
The use of medicinal plants as a fundamental component of the African traditional healthcare system is the oldest and the most assorted of all therapeutic systems. In many parts of rural Africa, traditional healers prescribing medicinal plants are the most easily accessible and affordable health resources available to the local community.
By Wangari Ndirangu

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